Birch and conifer deadwood favour early establishment and shade tolerance in yellow birch juveniles growing on sugar maple dominated stands
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Small-seeded tree species such as yellow birch (YB, Betula alleghaniensis Britt.) require deadwood or mineral soil for their establishment. Although much research has been done comparing YB germination on leaf litter vs. exposed mineral soil, less is known about deadwood as a seedbed and how different seedbeds affect YB early growth along light availability and size gradients. We examine how three common seedbeds (deadwood, moss cover on deadwood, and mineral soil) affected establishment and growth, biomass partitioning, and morphological traits of YB juveniles growing in the understory of temperate mixed deciduous and coniferous forests in southern Quebec. A total of 274 YB were sampled in four sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) dominated northern hardwood stands where selective cuts had been applied 6 and 15 years prior to sampling. Over 75% of the YB found on deadwood were on material of birch and conifer origin, although these species made less than 40% of the basal area. YB juveniles growing on deadwood showed traits that improve survival in shade such as reduced height growth for tall plants, higher efficiency in resource capture, and multilayered crowns. Our results demonstrate the importance of deadwood of birch and conifer origin in maintaining an abundant, natural, spatially well-distributed, and multistoried regeneration of YB.